“Smell the Roses?”

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When my roses begin to blossom, I take an early morning walk stopping at each bush to capture their fragrance. And, yes, I do think to “stop and smell the roses.”

Now you may not have roses or flowers to stop and smell, and you may not even be a morning person, but let this not deter you from stopping and smelling the moment. In the midst of all that we have been through these past few weeks, it is all the more imperative to do this.

Step out of the slipstream of panic and hysteria and worry and ultra-concern and take time to rest in the presence of Jesus. Let the Prince of Peace be your Peace:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He is our peace … . [Ephesians 2:13-14a]

Will you join me, then, in stopping to smell the Flower, the Rose of Sharon?

Peace,

Coach Mike

“Too Busy to Behold?”

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And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.     10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people—(Luke 2:9-10 NASB95, emphasis added)

The angels implored the shepherds to “Behold” the Good News they were announcing. To “behold” something is to “look, pay attention, and listen.” The shepherds stopped what they were doing, even though it was very important, and gave the angels their full attention—and listened.

During this sometimes-self-imposed busy season, Perhaps you can join me in three simple actives: (1) pausing or maybe even stopping what we are doing; (2) pay attention to the Lord’s whispering to us; and (3) listen to the Good News He has promised. During a time when good news seems so rare, let us remember that Jesus is the Good News that brings great joy to all, especially those who Love Him.

Peace,

Coach for Life Mike

“Perfection vs. Perfectionist”

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After my sabbatical few months back, I have given myself permission to take more thought time than I had before. And permission to understand that this time is not a waste of time. This was a big hurdle. I have so much I can be doing, but fortunately the Lord clearly grants permission for such times, right? Pondering His Word. Meditating in His Presence.

So the other day during one of these Pondering His Word Moments, the phrase hit me: “Jesus was Perfection, but He wasn’t a perfectionist.” Intriguingly, this staggered me. Being a recovering perfectionist and being one who wants to be like Jesus, the gulf between the two was so glaring. Why hadn’t I seen this before? And worse, I pondered all that Jesus did pleased the Father (cf John 8:29)! And He was never uptight, anxious, frantic that “it” needed to be just so,…. Then I started to laugh and picture Jesus  being this frantic, etc. perfectionist …. It didn’t fit. 

If He were, people wouldn’t want to be around Him  because He would be so demanding. His quality standards would be well beyond what anyone could achieve.  …

And in the juxtaposition of all these thoughts, I could see the Lord Jesus smiling at me: “Yes, Michael, I am perfection, but I need not fret about it, demand it of myself or of others. I just do what comes natural to Me.” The thought was so calming and reassuring.

As I let the Lord Jesus’ Life flow through me, He is perfection in me; even in my mistakes. (And this is another topic for another discussion!) He accomplishes through me what I could never accomplish. And so gracious, so peaceful. No demands upon myself or overly burdensome expectations on others. Just Calm.

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with being OCD or a perfectionist? Share a few moments of your journey with us.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.(Colossians 2:9–10 NIV84)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9–10 NIV84)

A Great Sleep Remedy

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Does this happen to you: You go through your simple routine as you prepare for sleep, but as soon as your head hits the pillow, instead of sleep, your mind starts racing—reviewing the days events? Your body twitches with each “Shoulda,’” “Coulda,” “Woulda” that slipstreams through your mind? I used to have this. And lately it has been slipping back.

Then I came across this great sleep remedy found in Psalm 4, and it has a lot to do what the worries and distressing events the day’s activites may have fomented.

As my mind begins racing, I review vv. 1-3 and remember the LORD will hear me when I plead to Him to stop my mind from racing. But He then shows me it is racing because of what I am focused on. I am focused on what I am not. He has set me apart. I am focused on myself and what I cannot do instead of on Him and what He can do.

Then He leads me to vv. 4 & 5 because now my frustration of a racing mind is morphing into anger…. “Be careful to not be care-filled,” I hear the LORD whisper to me. Instead, I am to simply, quietly, trust in Him to take care of these cares that are preoccupying my mind.

Vv. 6-8 then begin to quiet my soul as my trust falls upon the One Who can replace this slipstream of racing thoughts with Joy & Peace—that lead to sleep: “for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (v. 8).

And soon I   drift    asleep ….

Honestly, I wish I could say this has happened over night, but the truth is I need to practice this nightly as the worries, cares and concerns that preoccupy my pre-sleep mind slowly—but surely—evaporate and slip away….

Perhaps you have found yourself in the transition of this process, too? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Psalm 4:7–8 (NIV84) 7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress;  be merciful to me and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah 3 Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him. 4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. 6 Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. Psalm 4:1–6 (NIV84)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,  because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.Isaiah 26:3–4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my Peace as You. Flood my mind with the fullness of Your presence, as You, the Prince of Peace, driving out my worrisome, stress-filled thoughts. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

A Damaged Impulse to Protect Life

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Yesterday on a media outlet, I read about the tragic murder/suicide of a 9-year old daughter at her mothers’s hand. Given the speed of today’s digital “news,” the crime is still under investigation, but sadly, we are hearing more and more of this. According to one study done in 2007, mothers make up only 31% of parents killing their children under five (with fathers, step-fathers, and step-mothers completing the statistic).

What is heart retching is that this is a statistic at all, wouldn’t you agree? Generally, we’ve all seen it: the gentleness of a mother with her new born, tenderly caring for this precious life. This is the norm. But somehow some have had their impulse to protect life damaged.

Beyond all the deep wounds of the whys and wherefores, I’d like to look in our main text today at the woman whose life impulse was not damaged.

Some would not expect a prostitute (aka “harlot” or “whore”) to have an undamaged impulse. We would expect her to be like the other prostitute who said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two” (v. 26b)! But her impulse to protect life was undamaged.

Perhaps you have found, as I have, that women of character have an undamaged impulse to protect life. This is not to say they do not have struggles, often to the point of breaking. But somehow the impulse to protect life overwhelms any other impulses—even to literally murder their own child. 

For years as a young boy, I would hurl at my mother, “You hate me! You hate me! You hate me!” And with a deep mournful, broken heart she would weep back, “Michael, how can I hate you? You are my own flesh and blood.” Sadly, it took me years to really understand the depth of the truth of this statement. But I have learned that my dear mother had an undamaged impulse to protect life, too—even mine….

Do you have any suggestions for those who may have a damaged impulse? What are your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Kings 3:16–27 (NIV84) 16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.  19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”  22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”  But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.“And so they argued before the king. 23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”  But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”  27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne. Though she may forget, I will not forget you! [says the LORD].Isaiah 49:14–15 (NIV84)

  As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.—1 Thessalonians 2:6b–7 (NIV84)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.—Psalm 51:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, heal my wounded heart. Restore my passion and impulse to protect Life. Empower me to be like You—the Great Life Protector. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“I Missed His Fullness”

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When I first came into a personal relationship with Jesus, I was more than impressed with His deity. In fact, I felt the Lord had called me to correct all the wrongs in various denominations. So I pounced on the New Testament, especially the Gospels and St. Paul’s letters. I loaded my theological Gatling Gun, removed the safety and was ready to unload its magazine at the first hint of any ignorance or denial.

One of the verses I constantly loaded into the magazine was Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (NIV84). Fire fight after fire fight, I would empty this verse at those I encountered. And sadly, I was more interested in winning an argument than establishing a relationship….

Then one day, the Father was pleased to reveal to me more about Him through Jesus in the very next verse, 10: “and you have this fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (NIV74). I literally hit a wall.

All those years I was trying to please the Father by defending His Son’s reputation and identity—and in some large way trying to earn His approval so I could get more of Him—when all along I already had His Fullness in me through Jesus…. 

Since then it has been a journey of decreasing while the Lord Jesus keeps increasing within me. I look at this as kind of releasing of compressed air. His fullness is compressed in me in various aspects of my life. When I yield to His presence, His compressed Presence fills the void left by my selfish self. In effect, His transforming power now controls a part of my life that had once been in bondage to sin and self.

Once again, the Lord’s timing is impeccable, for I was reading, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence earlier this morning and came upon this in the Fourth Letter:

He [Brother Lawrence] complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. GOD, saith he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder GOD, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. (p. 42, The Spire Book)

I, too, was blind to this treasure, this gift of His grace: His Fullness— until the Father was pleased to reveal Him to me. How this all worked? What mechanism sprung? I do not know, but I do know that once I was blind, but now I see a little bit better….

Have you experience a revealing like this?

Main Text— Matthew 16:15–17 (NIV84) 15 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.John 1:16 (NIV84)

  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.—2 Peter 3:18) (NIV84)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:14–19 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You for the Grace of Your Fullness. Strengthen my resolve as I continue on this journey of decreasing while You increase within me. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Celebrate With Your Whole Heart”

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For some, today is a joyous occasion. The little ones come bounding in bouncing on the bed: “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! We made you breakfast!” The joy of the moment cannot be match as each year it grows deeper and more profound, and as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did, you treasure all these things in your heart.

But for some this is a very tortuous day. Their own mother has recently passed or they have lost a dear one through a miscarriage or death. Or they cannot have any children of their own. I cannot imagine the sorrow and grief that these events have brought, and to say to you to “Celebrate with your whole heart,” would seem like pouring vinegar on baking soda or scratching an old fashion blackboard with your nails or worse….

For you, I pray peace and comfort from the God of all Comfort and the Prince of Peace. Only He can mend your wounded heart. Flee to Him and find comfort and grace….

For all of us, let us celebrate motherhood with all our hearts. Celebrate the joys and the sorrows. Do not let the enemy rob you of this Joy you have in Jesus. Remember, we have a Loving Savior who was “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV)—acquainted with your grief! And yet for the joy set before Him, He endure the pain of His Cross.

My dear sister in Jesus, endure the pain of your cross for the joy set before you—the Joy of seeing Jesus face to face, the Joy of knowing He is good all the time no matter what cross you are carrying on this side of the veil.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Main Text— Matthew 12:47–50 (NIV84) 47 Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is My mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to His disciples, He said, Here are My mother and My brothers50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.(Hebrews 12:2–3 NIV84)

 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.—John 16:22 (NIV84)

 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.— Psalm 34:2–5 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, I seek You out in the joys and sorrows of my life. I draw close to You as infant to her mother. Lord Jesus Christ, be my Peace. As You mend my broken heart, I will yet once again hear laughter and rejoicing, for You are my God. I rejoice in Your Mercies and Grace doing so In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike